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Florida governor’s office: Masks in schools allowed if parents can ‘opt-out’

Rules for Executive Order 21-175 are still being finalized
FILE PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios...
FILE PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)(John Raoux | AP)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 10:45 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 10:48 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A statement from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office indicates he is easing back slightly on what the executive order barring masks in schools will mean, allowing districts to institute mask requirements if parents can opt-out.

Press Secretary Christina Pushaw says the rules surrounding Executive Order 21-175 are still being finalized. WCTV reached out to Pushaw for comment regarding Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna’s letter to DeSantis asking for local districts to have autonomy over mask policies.

In her response, Pushaw says the health and education emergency rules will not prohibit masks in schools; however, they will require parents to have the right to opt their children out from any mask mandates.

“School districts will be expected to allow parents to make this choice,” the statement reads.

Pushaw’s statement says she can provide updates about how the executive order will be enforced once the rules are in place. It is unclear at this point how a school district’s funding will be affected if it does choose to implement a mask mandate.

The Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Education will collaborate on making the rules connected to the executive order, with a focus on protecting parents’ “freedom to choose whether their children wear masks,” according to the governor’s office.

You can read the full statement from the governor’s office below:

“Pursuant to Executive Order 21-175, the Florida Department of Health will enter rulemaking in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks. We are finalizing health and education emergency rules this week that do not prohibit masks in schools but will require parents to have the right to opt their children out. School districts will be expected to allow parents to make this choice.

One final point the Governor has made many times, and I’d reiterate in response to the Superintendent’s claim: there is no empirical evidence to support the assertion that mandating children to wear face coverings in schools would have any impact on the county’s positivity rate. Last year, Florida schools were open the whole academic year. We did not see a significant difference in COVID spread when comparing districts that had mask mandates versus those that were mask optional.”

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